The first computer I ever used was an Apple Macintosh. It was 1986, I was in grade six and bathed in the warm green glow of its monitor. It was the only computer at our school, and the only program I used was an educational fishing game that taught you spelling.
The same year my parents, being prescient about this whole computer business, brought home an absurdly large IBM PC with dual floppy drives. Here was a green glow of my very own, and one that hummed like a F-18 on the tarmac. My prepubescent affair with Apple was over before it really began. The school Macintosh had been cuckolded by the IBM in the guest room.
Through most of high school, I spent far too much time in the school computer room. Though Apple owned the educational market in the late eighties, my school
had both Apples and IBMs. Me and the other hardcore nerds turned up our noses at the Apple machines, instead writing simple programs on the IBMs. At the same time, Apple Mactintoshes were becoming the computer of choice for ‘artsy professionals’ such as publishers and designers. Through the nineties, I believed that only two kinds of people used Apple computers-snobs and students.
Then something changed. Early in the 21st century, Apple found mainstream cool. You can probably trace this shift back to 1997, when founder Steve Jobs rejoined the company after being away for twelve years. Apple has always designed attractive computers, but the late nineties saw the introduction of the colourful iMac desktop and iBook laptop computers. Apples became the de facto choice for the film and television industry. In Mission Impossible, Tom Cruise fights traitorous spies with the help of his PowerBook. More recently, the ad agency where Halle Berry’s character works in Catwoman was festooned with massive 23-inch Apple monitors. I know this not because I saw the movie, but because I bought one off the set for an unholy discount.
Then came the iPod and the iTunes music store. These innovations have probably done more for Apple’s image than any product in its history. They are the first
relics of the digital music revolution. Most importantly, Apple owns the mindshare of consumers. When the average shopper thinks ‘digital music player’, they think
‘iPod’. When they want to buy music online, they think ‘iTunes’. That’s a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the company’s product development and marketing departments. The first time I held an iPod in my hand, I felt like I was holding the future.
The average Apple user is changing, too. My parents seriously considered buying one when they downsized. More surprisingly, most of my smartest, nerdiest friends are Apple users. These are the guys who like to get under the hood and mess around with a computer’s internal organs. You’d expect them to prefer a Unix or Linux machine. Instead, they’ve chosen Apple for superior security, stability and design. They may occasionally want to get under the hood (and Apple, for
the most part, lets them do so), but mostly they just want a computer that works.
The Apple computer is never going to be a world-beater. Currently, Apple’s marketshare sits at a measly 3%. There is some hope, though. My generation grew
up with Apple Macintoshes in the classroom. In adulthood, more and more of us are returning to our roots.